At a conference of university leaders in early 2013, Tony Abbott promised “relative policy stability” in higher education if he became prime minister. When it came, though, the Coalition’s first budget proposed cutting university funding by a breathtaking 20 per cent and removing the ceiling on university fees.
Rodney Tiffen, Inside Story:
Looked at over time and ranked against other OECD countries, public funding of Australian universities is at a record-breaking low.
In 2011, the last year for which full international data is available, Australia’s public funding of universities ranked thirty-third out of the thirty-four OECD member countries. Governments across the OECD spent an average of 1.1 per cent of GDP on universities; Australia devoted just 0.7 per cent. Six countries – including Canada, at 1.6 per cent – spent at least double Australia’s proportion of national income. Finland, at 1.9 per cent, tops the list.
The Pyne proposals would make the share of tertiary funding derived from private sources even greater. At the moment, private funding constitutes 0.9 per cent of GDP in Australia, which is almost double the OECD average of 0.5 per cent and puts us among the most privatised group. The relationship between income inequality and private share of university funding is striking, with relatively equitable countries, such as the Nordic countries, having the lowest, while several of those near the top of the list (Chile, Colombia, the United States) tend towards greater inequality.